Acts 24:27, 25:13-21; Psalm 103; John 21:15-19
The Gospel readings after the Ascension through yesterday were taken from the discourse of Jesus before he was arrested. The readings today and tomorrow are taken from the resurrection accounts in John. Here, we see the third time Jesus appeared to them. Some disciples with Peter went fishing that evening and caught nothing. But a man on the shore told them to throw their nets again and this time they caught a lot. After recognizing that man as Jesus, Peter and the disciples went to shore and saw Jesus had prepared breakfast for them. It is there Jesus had this conversation with Peter. Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loves him. Three times, Peter said yes. These question asked three times reflect the three times Peter denied Jesus. Jesus gave Peter the chance to repent of his denial.
What stands out is what Jesus said to Peter at the end of today’s Gospel: when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go. While John explains Jesus was telling Peter how he will die, this applies to us in our physical lives. When we were young, our bodies allowed us to do a lot of things. As we age, our bodies give way and we cannot do what we used to do. Yet, in all these human frailties, Jesus tells Peter, Follow me.
Following Jesus is not easy. It requires total surrender to him. It is as he said, stretching our hands and allowing others to lead us where we do not wish to go. Jesus sums up what it means to follow him. It is not what I want, what I think, what I will that matters. It is what he wants, what he thinks and what he wills that matters.
Sufferings does that to us. We are placed in a situation we do not want. When we suffer, we cannot do much. We are boxed into a corner, helplessly taking on what comes to us. But this is when the power of the resurrection works in us. While God is not the source of suffering, he uses the suffering so we can follow Jesus. No one wants to suffer because it is painful. It is a glimpse into death. But through it all, Jesus is there, calling us to follow him.
We see this in the First Reading where the governor Felix had to arrest Paul to prevent Paul from being killed by the mob. Felix left Paul in prison for two years and when a new governor arrived, he consulted the King about Paul’s case. There was no reason to keep Paul in prison but since Paul appealed to Rome, he had to be sent to Rome. God used Paul’s imprisonment to bring him to Rome, the center of the Empire at that time.
God allows suffering for our good. It may not seem so at that time, but we should not waste our suffering. In his writing Salvific Suffering, St John Paul II speaks of how suffering purifies us. St Paul said All things work together for the good of those who love God and those called according to his purpose.
The Psalm today reminds us that God sits on his throne in heaven. God’s love is as high as the heavens to those who fear him. He will never leave us nor forsake us in our suffering. When we are in a situation we do not wish to be, where we feel helpless, this is where God works mightily in us because his power is made perfect in our weakness.
Are you in a situation where you do not wish? Do you feel helpless, powerless to change your situation? The Good News is God cares for you and he calls you to him, through Jesus Christ. Jesus calls you to follow him. He is using your suffering to lead you to where he wants you to be: a life of eternal joy and peace. God does not want you to suffer. Which is why when you call on him, he will come and walk with you through your suffering. He may not take it away, but he will give you power to overcome this suffering. St Paul said we more than conquers in Christ Jesus. You will come out of this suffering completely victorious by the power of Christ. Come, follow him.
Lord, here I am, in a place where I do not wish. Yet Lord, I know, it is when I am weak, that your power is made perfect in me. I surrender my life to you. I give you all I am, all my sufferings, my problems, my despair. Send me your Spirit so I can accept what reveals about you. You are all I want Lord, because you are my treasure, my inheritance, my life.